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Where are we now?

Every year about this time, I look back at the past twelve months and take stock of what complaints or problems have been settled and which ones are still troubling readers. I am happy to report that the number of questions from this period (November 1992 to October 1993) has dropped in most cases from those of last period (November 1991 to October 1992)

I must congratulate readers on the lack of problems on CNC equipment, major dust equipment or finishing VOCs. I have had calls on each of these categories but I have not heard of any major problems. However, there are still some categories in need of improvement.

Lumber problems still top concern

The first category, of course, is lumber -- drying and storage, and the various problems relating to grade, color streaks, defects, etc. While the amount has dropped from 132 to 71, lumber is still the area of top concern.

Manufacturers can be divided into two groups, those that have their own kilns and those who buy their lumber kiln-dried. I find three outstanding faults with the second group: the method of ordering, the lack of metering or checking moisture content upon receipt, and the inadequate storage of lumber. You would be surprised how many orders are placed that state "kiln-dried" but don't indicate desired moisture content. Then there are those manufacturers who store their lumber in a building but have no control over temperature, humidity or circulation.

I have found that medium to small operations, in particular, are guilty of these situations. Though I must congratulate the dramatic drop in lumber problems, I hope that by the next check, the problems will be eliminated. After so many years of writing this column, though, I doubt it.

Fewer machining problems

In the second area, machining, the number of problems has dropped from 73 to 27. Formerly, I had complaints on form and pattern, poor shop balance and problems with computer control. I am glad to report that this is now down to practically zero. What is left amounts to poor maintenance, if any. I heard of a few nasty situations between readers and machinery suppliers concerning equipment that did not perform as promised. I also had many requests concerning various machines and the column did influence many to attend machinery shows.

Over the past few years, machining in general has improved tremendously and the arrival of small CNC and other advanced units has made a huge difference. As for the future, I believe we are headed toward one machine for solids and one double-ender for panel stock.

Plywood field most improved

Though plywood concerns have dropped from 167 to 56, the same problems are recurring, including: lack of balance (to be achieved by having the face and back the same species using back reject grade for the back and practicing proper panel storage, both by the maker and the recipient), burls and crotches not being two-plied before being laminated and the ever present matching problem in finish when bookmatching of veneers are used rather than slip matching. The main complaints of the finish of many bookmatched panels are from consumers.

Panel manufacture has improved tremendously in the last few years. However, I still hear of the usual warp and twist problems due to temperature and humidity difficulties along with some mechanical or component faults. Face veneers, cores, MDF, etc., still require meter checking for moisture content.

Better quality furniture on the rise

Since industry has been on a quality binge, assembly of furniture and cabinets has vastly improved, and problems have dropped from 17 to 6. Better door hanging and drawer fitting have made the difference; better guides and hinges have also contributed to this improvement. Better case clamps and other assembly devices, as well as the drive for better quality in general, has also helped make for a better product.

The quality surge has had a lot to do with improvements in sanding as well as machine and abrasive advancements, plus better dust control. I have not heard of a single problem with sanding equipment, and that is quite an improvement.

What I do hear about is complaints of rough edges and raised grain which can be remedied with glue size.

Finishing still a concern

Finish problems have not dropped as much as other phases of woodworking, they have only decreased from 132 to 91. Common finishing problems include failure to train personnel, mistakes in spraying technique and use of rags that leave specs under finish rather than cleaning work pieces off with air pressure. In addition, time after time, problems occur when purchasing people fail to use one source because they are pushed to find the least expensive materials. Once more, choose a main source and give it your material business. If price is a factor, bring it to his attention and by all means, get the regular use of a trained technician that can set up procedure, check materials, observe sprayers, sanders and above all check color control.

Lack of color control is the second major problem. The technician makes the color sample. It is in plain view at the shading area and every piece must match the control unit. When not in use, it is covered and stored. Each individual finish must have a control piece. Shading requires experience, a touch and the technician can be of great help with this process to assure color control. New equipment or material is not the issue here. Proper operation using a main source and its technician will result in improved quality control, greatly reducing rejects.

Marketing problems on the rise

Now then, when it comes to marketing and organizational problems, it's a whole different ballgame. Questions are up to 128 versus 37 the previous year. As you can expect, the little guys want to know how to get bigger and how to deal with increased production if they do expand. The bigger guys are constantly looking for ways to cut down costs.

With the economy the way it is, I don't have to tell anyone about sales difficulties. If the giant companies have tied up a lot of retail floor space or have their own outlets, what do the mid-sized guys do, and so on, through a period of very serious change? I have been lucky enough to be able to help and my request for "ideas" has brought in some very interesting things. Inventions are still flowing in steadily. I urge that inventors protect their ideas. In addition, please investigate if patents are effective for your product, because copiers usually can knock off your work for a couple of years and by that time, the big profit is usually gone anyway.

Solving problems is the business of this column. I hope I can help. If your problem is lumber warping, a troublesome yard foreman or whatever, please write.

Q From time to time we get streaks in oak, anywhere from 1/4 in. to 4 in. and they vary in color from light tan to dark reddish brown. Our supplier says that his streaking comes from minerals and that he cannot guarantee anything different. Otherwise, we have a good deal with him and I do not want to change. How can we handle this and also, what about rough grain? Is gluesize what you prescribe here? Thanks for all the help. Mr. Y.

A Some of what you have are mineral streaks and some is darkened with rough cutting. Gluesize is great for rough or raised grain. To hide streaks, you need a very experienced sprayer to handle stain-toner. We have touched on this many times but I realize that until something concerns you personally, seeing the answer in print some time ago does not ring a bell today. I would compare the price of your supplier with that of streak-free oak from another source and look at your ultimate cost.

Q Just want you to know we installed your "way" of inspection and it is a success from the start. Many, many thanks. Mr. C.

A What can I say but good. Keep in touch.

Q I sliced a piece of plywood where a soft spot appears and we can feel the lack of adhesion. We do not make our own panels and this sort of thing is inexcusable! What goes here? Mr. O.

A First, panels of this kind -- simple three-ply door panels -- could be 1/4 inch if frames and 1 inch if not, but with MDF or particleboard core. Cheap wood cores are a thing of the past and with knots that prevent adhesion at that! I realize you folks are new at this but local dimension sources can do better.

Q You have me convinced that I should leave my office and spend more time in the plant. What is this business about management carrying moisture meters? Do you really mean it? Thanks. Mr. J.

A I really mean it! A small pocket sized unit will do it and I guarantee you that you will be amazed at what moisture contents you find at the cut-off saw and throughout the plant. If the figures are good, then you don't have anything to worry about but keep it up. Every day is not like the next. Let those people know that you are checking. It can only do good. After a week or two, let me know what you find.

Q On the insistence of a good customer, I walked through the showroom of a competitor. We make case goods and they do the works. I was supposed to see the depth and character of their finish. After comparing closeup photos of theirs and ours, I will admit that theirs look better. What do they do that we need. Mr. E.

A They do a good glazing job and before sealing, they shade to accent portions of the figure. I suggest that you ask your material source to arrange a demonstration for you.

Q We sent a small sample of panel failure. Twisting and checking are not the usual thing for us. The components were right on target for moisture and although we get up to 45% humidity at times, we are watching the "Metz rules" with great care. What do you find? Thanks. Mr. K

A Moisture is entering the deep cuts in the back of the panels. No doubt there is some kind of hardware that fits into these borings. If everything depends on the cuts, then by all means seal them well immediately after machining. However, make a sample or two and try it before doing this in production. Give it the heat and cold test after a day or so following the sealing. I do not expect any problem, but if there is the slightest difficulty, let me know. (Note: Borings and large grooves must be sealed. We have many readers with similar problems especially those with heavy panels over 1 inch thick.)

Q You have several photos of finish. Each is very different, very well done and our people think many of them are very "saleable." Is it possible that they are all done on the same wood? If so, it is a great job. I can't believe each finish is done on the same wood. Yet, I am told it is the case. Is that so and if so, can we do this? We appreciate the column -- its simply great. Mr. L.

A I checked this out and yes, it is all one wood, namely soft maple. This takes some doing and if your source technician is not confident about handling this, I can refer him to someone who will go into this in great detail. Please advise.

Q Have you had any trouble with finishing foremen resenting the use of source technicians? Mr. J.

A Very little.

Q We notice that many of the major furniture companies are going direct to stores and showrooms, and in some instances to the public. This opens up a whole new and different approach that hurts the medium-sized manufacturer even if they have good retail connections. What is an alternative? Many thanks. Mr. T.

A If your dealers are featuring your goods and in fact, using your name in their ads and if the business is satisfactory considering economic conditions, I would sit tight for a while and watch what transpires. If not, then I would think about going in with two or three unrelated lines, and each with their own identity, and pick a few top spots to try going direct. However, I think we must give this some serious talking over.

Q We have ducked finishing for many years. Mainly, we had a great finisher near us that was good and inexpensive. That gift is no more. How do we start? With thanks for many past favors. Mr. N.

A You have the space to add a finishing room and from what you tell me, you understand the procedure reasonably well. However, I am certain after all these years of reading W&WP, you would figure me to point you to a major source and technician that can get you started. He will go into the basic equipment, procedures and all. He will provide the finishes that you know will sell. You must come up with the foreman and at least two or three sprayers. Fortunately, your area should give you no problems whatsoever when it comes to help. I have listed three top sources. Questions?

Q Attached is a large photo of the problem we are having with oak end panels. We are making them according to spec. The oak is on the money for moisture content and so is our plant. We want to know why many of these panels bow. Also, many thanks for the gluesize tip. It does wonders for rough edges. Many thanks. Mr. F.

A Two things are causing the bowing. The panels, being solid, must be made of rippings that are 3 inches or less wide and reversed end for end every other strip. Remember the "rules?" Then, too, those 3/4-inch cuts that receive the shelves not only relieve stress, but take on moisture in storage, not to mention the amount of glue you apparently use. Cut the grooves down and tenon on the shelves, or better yet, use shelf supports and eliminate the grooves.

Q Three years ago we attended the big machinery show and bought three major machines. I won't go into detail, except that two are absolutely wonderful. The third has been a source of constant trouble. The maker sent a man to us months ago but there has been little or no improvement. I am at my wits end and my last resort is to complain to you. It is a shame that the machinery association this company belongs to has no influence on these folks. What now? Appreciate the help. Mr. M.

A Give them one last chance to cure or replace, then have your attorney handle it.

Q We manufacture doors, principally industrial. The attached detail drawings indicate the construction. You will note that the cores for the plywood mentioned have not been successful in that we have had twisting and warpage. Since the construction has not changed and the problems did not exist in the past, we are assuming we have a core problem, but we also have no control over humidity. We need help and we need some consulting advice. Thanks. Mr. B.

A I have suggested a consultant that I think is the best on door construction. In the meantime, you may want to experiment with both particleboard and MDF, giving them the hot and cold test. By the time the consultant arrives, you will have all the evidence he needs. You are not the only one with this problem. I am anxious to find out what this man finds.

Q We are a custom shop that makes fine pieces and restores antiques. We have six people and we hope you can tell us how to expand our business. Mr. K.

A Check with local decorators. Ask the top dealer what you can do for him. Get small ads in local church bulletins and the same for ladies clubs. Check the museum for restoration work opportunities and by all means ask local distributors if they could use a few occasional tables that would be a production item.

Q We are working with soft maple and we can thank you for that. We are having one bit of trouble with the sanding. On the flat work we are roughing and polishing and no matter how careful we are, we seem to be getting some streaks and faint cuts. I am sure you would approve of the way we are stroking and wide belting. Mr. E.

A Although I am certain that you can use a medium paper, your supplier used the old term "4/0." At any rate, I think your technician from your supplier will settle this in a hurry. Not to be outdone, I sent a piece of soft maple veneer to you today done with one grit.

Q We are to glue up a number of solid wood panels that have a taper of about 1 1/4 inch on both edges. Do we build up the panels on the clamp with the taper? Are joint failures possible or is the pressure sufficient enough to handle this? Mr. N.

A Under no conditions taper and then glue up. There will be a pack of trouble, including joint failure.

Q Do you believe in promoting an employee to foreman or bringing in a new face? Many thanks. Mr. H.

A If you have a sound worker that has leadership qualities and one who wants the job and is highly considered by his peers, give him a shot at it after a good, encouraging, very personal talk.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:reduced wood working and handling complaints
Author:Metz, Jerry
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:2989
Previous Article:Overall, wood industry stronger in '93 than '92.
Next Article:It takes more than Mickey Mouse.
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